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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sodom, Gomorrah rebuilds

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Five days after a fierce fire gutted Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum in Accra, the residents have started rebuilding the wooden structures to serve as homes.

When the Times visited the affected area yesterday, some residents had finished putting up their structure, made up of plywood, and painted them after the lands were filled with saw dust. Others were seen busily at work.

A fierce fire last Thursday swept through the area and destroyed property worth millions of cedis.

Most of the residents who could not start work immediately have erected wooden pillars on their plots to prevent other people from encroaching upon them.

Those who spoke to the Times,accused the government of being insensitive to their plight.

They said that although some government officials visited the area after last Thursday’s disaster, no assistance has been received.

One of the victims, Mohammed Hamdu, said Nii Tackie Commey,Member of Parliament for Odododiodio, Isaac Amo, Director of NADMO and Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations had inspected the area after the disaster and said "We cannot understand why the government has abandoned us to our fate."

In November last year, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing,Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, announced that government has acquired land at Adjen-Kotoku near Amasaman to relocate the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

'Police, Media Need To Fight Crime'

By Stephen Kwabena Effah, Dodowa
Saturday, 20 January 2007

The Minister for the Interior, Albert Kan-Dapaah, has called for a responsible media reportage and a broader education on the complex activities in the country’s criminal justice system.

"Indeed, I have heard it argued that we should seek to institutionalise the media as a regular pillar in the criminal justice system," he said.

Speaking at workshop on combating organised crime here yesterday, he explained that such initiative would make the torch of press freedom burn brighter to guide media practitioners in their role towards peace, security and prosperity of the country.

The two day workshop, oganised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) in conjunction with the British High Commission is on the theme: "The Role of the Media in Combating Organised Crime"

Editors, senior journalists and police personnel are discussing ways to improve media-police relations to enhance cooperation to expose organised crime.

The participants will also identify challenges facing the media in crime reporting and security issues, and encourage the police to provide protection to media personnel in their line of duty.

Mr.Kan-Dapaah said that criminologists have established that crime coverage presents negative image regarding the effectiveness of the police and the courts in controlling crime and punishing criminals, adding "news coverage fails to educate readers on the factors leading to crime or how to avoid personal victimization".

Crime and its related activities, he said, pose unbearable effects on the economic dynamics and security of a country, noting "governments lose billions in tax revenues from criminal activities".

He noted that although the criminal justice institutions for combating crime have shown to be doing their best, they still have limited capacity to match the regularity and sophistication of organised crime in recent times.

He therefore advocated a new approach to involve all stakeholders in the country to confront the menace, saying that the portrayal of the police as "toothless bulldogs" in the media urges people to tempt them.

"When we write to ridicule the police as toothless bulldogs, don’t we end up encouraging criminals?"

The president of the GJA, Ransford Tetteh, appealed to the police to provide greater protection for journalists as a result of the high level of occupational hazard.

He said that although journalists are not police offcers, their role in society requires them to be watchdogs of society.

He said the approach, methodology and mode of execution sometimes result in disagreement but advised that such situation should not lead to antagonism which may result in physical attacks on media personnel as was the case last year.

The British High Commissioner, Gordon Wetherell, said fighting organised crime is important in itself, especially as Ghana celebrates its 50th anniversary and pledged the assistance of the United Kingdom in this and other related cases.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Government Secretarial School Hit By Protests

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Friday, 19 January 2007

Students of the Government Secretarial School in Accra on Wednesday went on a five-hour demonstration to register their protest against the school’s acting principal.

Wearing red arm bands, caps and headgears, the students numbering over 100, gathered at the school as early as 8:00 am amidst chanting of war songs that brought academic and administrative activities to a halt.

At 9:45 am, when the acting Principal, Samuel Tetteh arrived, the students started shouting "go away, go away" "you must go" and they would not heed pleas for calm by some members of staff.

They refused to go to their classrooms and turned down Mr.Tetteh’s invitation to meet with their leadership. Rather they proceeded to the Office of the Head of Civil Service where they presented a petition received by the Chief Director, Edward Barnes.

Speaking to the Times, a spokesperson for the students, Mary Colnerrosse gave a catalogue of grievances, accusing the principal of arbitrariness and corruption.

She said that although their admission letters stated that they were to undergo an 18 month course beginning September 2005 to March 2007 Mr Tetteh had extended the period without any explanation.

She said that at a meeting with the students on Monday, January 15, Mr.Tetteh again announced the postponement of the release of the results of Stenographer Grade Two examination they wrote in November/December last year, from February to April.

She explained that although a person referred in a subject had two chances to write and pass the referred subjects before sitting for the Grade One examination, "Mr. Samuel told us that students referred in the Grade Two examination would write the referred paper in June, at the time others would be writing the final paper, that is the Grade One".

"This means that the referred candidates will write their grade one examination in December, and in that case we will be required to come for part time classes at a fee," she said.

She also said Mr.Tetteh was supposed to have gone on retirement last December and wondered why he was still at post. She therefore called for an immediate action to be taken on him.

Miss Colnerrosse again alleged that Mr.Tetteh repeatedly said that "our destiny is in his hands and since he failed his exams seven times, he will also fail us seven times".

Some members of staff expressed support for the students’ action describing the acting principal as a "dictator and morally corrupt person who does not want the school to progress."

They alleged that some students who failed their examinations were passed after paying bribes to the principal, ranging between ¢1.5 million and ¢2 million.

When contacted, Mr.Tetteh said, "I will not comment until I speak to my director"

The Government Secretarial School, located at Cantonments in Accra offers secretarial and business courses for senior secondary school leavers as well as refresher courses for secretaries and office administration.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

170 Babies To Test New Malaria Vaccine

By Stephen Kwabena Effah, Kintampo
Tuesday, 09 January 2007 (Page 3)

The Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC) is to recruit 170 babies at birth for the second phase of the Malaria Vaccine Trial now ongoing in the Kintampo North and South districts of the Brong-Ahafo Region.

Currently, only children aged between five and 17 months are participating in the two-year malaria vaccine trial which started last September, and is being sponsored by the Malaria Vaccine Initiative.

Dr. Seth Owusu-Adjei, Director of KHRC, said that half of the babies would be given the malaria vaccine alongside the routine polio and tuberculosis vaccines that are given children from the age of six weeks.

"The other half will go on the normal routine vaccinations and the two group would be evaluated later to determine the level of protection that they would have from the malaria vaccine and the level of protection they would have from the routine vaccination," he told a team of journalists.

This was at a Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance sponsored field trip for journalists from the Africa Media and Malaria Research Network to assess the progress of the malaria vaccine trial in the Kintampo districts.

Dr. Owusu-Adjei an epidemiologist, said the plan is going through "ethical approval" and explained that "the earlier you introduce protection for malaria into a child, the better."

"If the vaccine is able to achieve 50 per cent protection against severe malaria after the trial, then it could reduce the mortality from 20,000 to 10,000 annually in the country," he stated.

Dr. Owusu-Adjei said that other forms of malaria protections such as the insecticide-treated nets and intermittent preventive treatment in pregnant women, could also add up to the percentage and help to reduce the malaria burden dramatically.

Asked whether any of the tried participants had experienced an attack, since the trial began, he replied: "We’ve treated some of the kids for malaria," but pointed out that not every child in the trial is on the malaria vaccine.

He said the phase three of the project would begin next year and by 2011, it would be adopted by the government.

Psychiatric Units Needed In Districts

By Stephen Kwabena Effah, Kintampo
Monday, 08 January 2007 (Page 3)

A CLINICAL psychologist at the Kintampo Health Research Centre, Bright Akpalu, has advocated the establishment of psychiatric units in all districts to deal effectively with psychiatry cases.

He observed that lack of such units in the districts makes people take patients with mental problems to prayer camps which worsens their condition.

Speaking to the Times during a visit to the centre by a group of journalists, he said that sometimes when people with mental problems are taken to prayer camps they are subjected to human rights abuses including being chained and beaten.

The journalists from the Africa Media and Malaria Research Network were at the centre to assess the progress of the ongoing malaria vaccine trials in the district.

Mr Akpalu said it is proper to see a doctor immediately one sees a symptom of mental problem since some mental problems can be managed initially."

He noted that the Wenchi, Kintampo, and Tain districts have no mental health personnel to handle reported mental cases in those areas, although a research on schizophrenia conducted by the centre last year in the areas showed a high rate of mental disorders.

He attributed the disorders to genetic disposition, the use of marijuana, and depression.
Depression, he said, is one of the leading causes of psychiatric cases in Ghana which many people do not consider as a mental disorder.

He, therefore, advised those who find themselves in such situations to seek early medical attention. He also advised against the use of the alcoholic "bitters" and other forms of drugs as sexual stimulants, saying "It is a misconception about sex.

The 20-month malaria vaccine trial which is in its second phase started in September in Kintampo and Agogo by the Kintampo Health Research Centre and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research.

Ghana was selected among six other African countries for the trial which was developed by the Glaxo-Smithkline Biologicals in Belgium.

The vaccine is being tried on 540 children in Ghana aged between five and 17 months.